Executives asking: Which management style works today? Top-down or by influence of performance?

More than half of global companies increasingly define leaders not by their position on the organization chart but by their influence and performance, according to a survey of nearly 1,200 senior business and human resource executives from more than 40 countries by American Management Association.

Fifty-three percent of the respondents now consider individuals to be leaders not according to their authority, but their impact. According to another 14%, a leader is “anyone, whether they manage others or not, who is a top-performer in their specific role.”

“Our latest findings suggest we’re reaching a tipping point where pace-setting companies now recognize that the term ‘leader’ applies to a far broader group than just those at the top of the organization chart,” said Jennifer Jones, Director at AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of American Management Association that offers advisory services and tailored training programs to organizations.

Which one of the following statements best reflects your organization’s definition of a “leader?”

Anyone at a VP level and above, 6%;
Anyone at a Director level and above, 9%;
Anyone at a Manager level and above, 13%;
Anyone in charge of a group of employees or a function, 17%;
Anyone whose role allows them to influence a group, regardless of direct reporting relationships, 39%:
Anyone who is in a position that is designated “critical” to our company, 2%;
Anyone, whether they manage others or not, who is a top-performer in their specific role, 14%.

“And we’re not talking about just a change in attitude among senior management,” said Jones. “It’s widespread at all levels in today’s flatter, more matrixed organizations. Individuals realize the need for leadership skills while collaborating with colleagues in another business unit, sharing expertise with peers in a different geographic location or working on ad-hoc projects.”

According to Jones, the emerging leadership challenge is to master key human skills, such as being able to work with all kinds of people. “There isn’t a single way to achieve this, of course, but mastering communications skills, collaborating on a project, focusing on objectives, sharing responsibility, being thoughtful, or even having a sense of humor may be ways of becoming a successful leader, and not just trying to assert authority. Interpersonal skills will no doubt move to the center of more leadership development.”

In its fourth annual survey, AMA Enterprise partnered with the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Training Magazine to track current trends in global leadership development. The study population consisted of 1,174 senior-level business, human resource and management professionals from 37 industry sectors.

With more than 90 years’ experience and headquartered in New York, American Management Association is a global leader of comprehensive talent development. AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of AMA dedicated to building corporate and government learning and training solutions, transforms enterprise-wide talent to fuel innovation, high performance and optimal business results.